Black Panther’s time has come. After years of waiting, there’s only four months left until Marvel’s king of Wakanda debuts in his own live-action film. With several multimedia projects in the pipeline — a digital series, a movie prequel comic, a LEGO special and a season of the animated Avengers Assemble — the sky is seemingly the limit for the hero. But there’s still one platform he’s yet to make his mark on: video games.
Superheroes and video games have long been intimate partners, although their track record has been undeniably spotty. It’s been only fairly recently that there have been consistently great titles, albeit starring DC Comics characters, such as Arkham and Injustice. Marvel, on the other hand, has largely stuck to three types of video games: movie tie-ins, mobile games and LEGO, occasionally with them intersecting. In January, Marvel and Square Enix announced a partnership that spans several years and covers multiple games. With that in mind, Black Panther should be a priority for that collaboration.
It goes without saying a Black Panther video game could capitalize on anticipation for the upcoming feature film, which is responsible for significantly raising the hero’s profile. With another Marvel hero, such as Spider-Man or the Avengers, there are certain expectations; a Spider-game must have web-slinging on par with 2004’s Spider-Man 2, and an Avengers title must have the Marvel Cinematic Universe roster. Black Panther has no such expectations, providing the developer with more creative freedom.
Black Panther is an Avenger, yes, but he’s much more than that. He’s a king, and a diplomat whose actions quite literally speak for an entire nation. Even within his home nation Wakanda, his presence during any situation speaks volumes, and he lacks the anonymity of a Batman or Spider-Man. Black Panther already had a reputation before T’Challa assumed the matle. In the form of a game, that kind of powerful reputation offers plenty of drawbacks, most noticeably when enemies are constantly gunning for you in the vein of Shadow of War. And just as it’s fun to take down stupidly overconfident enemies in the Arkham games, it would be a delight to thrash opponents who think they can take on the Black Panther.
Afrofuturism is something that’s rarely, if ever been explored in games, much less the AAA space. In open-world games, the most common settings — barring the Assassin’s Creed titles — have all pulled from iconic locations such as New York or Los Angeles, places that are instantly recognizable, but offer little in the way of variety. As the recent trailer for Black Panther demonstrates, Wakanda defies expectations, and possesses advanced technology that puts anything the United States is working on to shame. The AAA games industry overall doesn’t really tackle cultures that aren’t American or Euro-centric, and while a Black Panther game wouldn’t fix all those problems, it would at least shake things up.
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